July 16, 2010

Visiting the Alouettes’ new home

By François Ferland,

Montreal – Are you one of the many Alouettes fans who could rarely, if ever, attend a game at McGill Stadium? Was it because the demand for tickets was much larger than the actual capacity of its amphitheatre?

Maybe you have given up trying to purchase tickets because you’ve become accustomed to finding the Alouettes’ box office closed on a regular basis? Well, those days are over!

Thanks to the many modifications and renovations made to the stadium over the last few months, roughly 5,000 additional fans can now attend home games. With the home opener rapidly approaching on July 22, the team will hold the inauguration of its new-and-improved home in front of the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats, marking the beginning of a three-game homestand.   

Let me take some time to talk to you on a little more of personal tone than I usually do. Accompanied by Mark Weightman, Vice President of Operations & Events, I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the entire McGill Stadium.

Weightman has been able to see the development and evolution of the Alouettes in this facility, which now pays tribute to the team’s time spent in McGill Stadium ever since that unforgettable semi-final game against the BC Lions on Nov. 2, 1997. During my visit, I asked Weightman to summarize the fans’ overall thoughts and impressions after seeing the new building for the first time, following a pre-season game on June 19 versus the Toronto Argonauts.

“The comment that had been made most often was this: Wow!” replied Weightman with a smile.

As Weightman and I spoke on the south side of the field, I had trouble thinking any differently. The new facility is without a doubt, a remarkable success. Being able to have stood in every stadium in the Canadian Football League thought my career as a journalist, I can state with confidence, that the new home of the Alouettes is by far the most picturesque.  

A Unique Cachet
As nice as McGill stadium looks on its own, it is highlighted by the splendour of Mount Royal and the magnificent architecture that makes up the surrounding area.

“(Bob) Wetenhall (owner of the Alouettes), said he is very satisfied with the transformation of the stadium,” added Weightman.  He is sure that the fans, upon arrival at McGill Stadium, will believe that all the extensive work done to stadium was an absolute success.    

The east entrance grabs your attention right away thanks to a metal arch framing the walkway, and a similar arch is currently being installed at the north-west entrance as well. The east side will also feature a newly-improved box office that is built into the mountain, giving the impression that it has a green roof, since it will be covered with greenery. 

“The box office is of outmost importance since we want to give our fans not only the opportunity to purchase tickets on the same day of a home game, but also for games to come later that year,” explained Weightman.

Other interesting additions to the stadium that will be sure to capture the eyes of fans are a Raymond Nadeau art piece near the east side entrance of History Place – an area depicting the history of McGill Stadium –  and Builder’s Prominade, an area displaying bricks purchased by fans and corporate sponsors that pay homage to the Alouettes.

What adds charm to McGill Stadium is the fact that the intimacy level that fans were worried about losing was preserved throughout the renovation process. Additionally, there is no bad seat in the entire facility – every seat offers an excellent view of the field. 

“That is one aspect that we are particularly proud of,” states Weightman. He adds that “The work done by the Populous architect firm, which was notably involved in the construction of Camden Yards (the home of the Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball) and its work on Wembley Stadium, is definitely something that need recognition.”

To add to this picture we created of McGill Stadium, it is also important to note that the facility will improve its audio system, re-position the screen in compliance to the environmental requirements of Mont Royal, add elevators (north and south sides), add snack counters with increased space to access them, provide corporate boxes and a plaza built at the base of the giant screen, where Marie-Mai will entertain the crowd during the half-time show of the Alouettes game on July 22.

The new McGill Stadium gives Montrealers and their Alouettes something to be extremely proud of.

 I would be glad to hear your thoughts after you experience it for yourself!